A Cultural Burning Walk and Talk with Jason

19th April 2023 | 

Last Saturday, over 20 attendees gathered in Cradoc to hear from Jason Andrew Smith about managing country with traditional knowledge and cool burning. 

Image: A great turnout for this weekend event

Participants were excited and grateful for the opportunity to learn from Jason, who started the workshop with a smoking ceremony to welcome everyone to country.

Jason took the group on a walk around his property in Cradoc and showed them how he has been using traditional knowledge to make the country healthy again. 

Image: © Jemima Phelps

We were shown areas that hadn’t been burned where the bracken fern was dense and “too high”.  Jason explained this dense understory becomes a fire hazard as it provides fuel for fire to burn hot and on a large scale. 

He explained that historically the palawa/pakana managed country so that the understory was much less dense. People and animals could walk in every direction and trees had space to grow - more of an “open woodland”. 

Jason showed us how he uses a single mattress to flatten bracken fern before burning - the participants found this hilarious . Jason emphasisesd there were once cultural layers for managing bush other than fire. Country was kept healthy through cultural practices as much as it was managed for fuel reduction purposes. For example he pointed out how browning reeds could have been used to make canoes and stringy bark would have been gathered by women ultimately reducing the fire risk in these ecosystems. Fire was used in many ways to manage country for food and living.

Interesting takeaways:

  • Good fire is low intensity and cool, it doesn’t reach the canopy
  • Burning over 1ha is not good for the ecosystem as it doesn’t allow for animals to move on
  • Wallaby tracks act as natural firebreaks 
  • Using fire, Jason regenerated a dried up dam to hold water on his property    

Jason closed the workshop by thanking Landcare groups for adopting "caretaker" roles in their community.  The workshop was a great example of the importance of sharing knowledge and traditional practices to manage the environment sustainably. Landcare Tasmania is committed to continuing to support workshops like these and connecting people with experts like Jason to learn and implement these practices in their own communities.

Thank you to Jason for inviting us into his home and on Country to learn about fire and cultural practices, to Belinda and Jemima our wonderful volunteers for helping on the day, and to Chris Wilson who submitted the idea for this workshop to our Project Bank. 

If interested in learning more, keep an eye on the patrula nayri (fire good) Facebook page for more of Jason's cultural burning workshops

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Author: Lily Fraser 


Photo credit: Jemimah Phelps 2023

Jason Andrew Smith (patrula nayri)

Welcome to country smoking ceremony

Feeling soil moisture


Jason amongst the Bracken Fern